Somehow in the past year or so, sweet tea has become the national drink. People of all ages and nationalities drink it, although it does kind of set me back to be offered sweet tea by a waitress in ethnic dress at a Chinese restaurant.
I've tried sweet tea in all kinds of places - from high priced restaurants to fast food places and I have to admit that just about the best is Mickey D's Sweet Tea - large size for only a buck. I have spent so much time waiting in line at the local McDonald's that the employees no longer ask what I want; it's "Hi! Sweet tea - right?" Sometimes I like to fool them and order a hamburger too, but when I get home, the hamburger is ignored for, after all, the main course is the sweet tea.
Now, most northerners haven't a clue what constitutes good sweet tea. They think you can take instant tea, add water and throw in some artificial sweetener and you have sweet tea. Yuk!
To make a pitcher of real honest-to-goodness sweet tea, you have to brew the tea. I like two different brands - Luzianne or Great American Tea, which comes from the only tea plantation in the United States. The latter is hard to find outside Charleston, South Carolina, but it is well worth the trip down there just to see how tea is grown and cultivated and to stock up on this wonderful tea. Or just look it up on Google and order it online.
If you decide to make your own sweet tea, only three ingredients are needed: tea, water and sugar - lots and lots of sugar. No Sweet and Low, no Splenda - good, old fashioned, tingle-your-lips sugar! Put your tea bags in a small saucepan and cover with an inch or so of water, bring to boil and turn off the heat under the pan. Let it steep. Now, the important part. Shovel the sugar into a glass pitcher - remember, lots of sugar. Pour the hot tea water over the sugar and stir like crazy. Finally, add cold water to the pitcher and stir again. Pour into an ice filled glass and enjoy. Notice that I didn't tell you how many tea bags or how much water to use. It really depends on how strong you want it. I usually start with 3 bags and add enough water so that it looks like the right strength. You can also use loose tea, but I never get it strained right and it annoys me to find bits of tea leaves between my teeth.
My sister-in-law calls sweet tea "sugar water," but what does she know. She grew up in Michigan and lives in Philadelphia, for Pete's sake.